Guide for Victims of Crime - Dealing With the Police

Victim of Crime
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When a Crime is Reported

When a crime is reported, the first person of authority to show up on the scene is usually a police officer. They are there to determine if a crime has been committed, check on the welfare of any victims, gain control of the crime scene, secure physical evidence, talk to witnesses, take pictures or videotape the scene, and collect as much information that pertains to the crime as is possible.

There is a certain protocol that police officers and detectives follow when investigating a crime scene. Following the protocol can be critical to solving the case. It can also be somewhat overwhelming to the victim and may appear callous at times. It is important for a crime victim to remember that the police are on their side and what they are doing could help catch and prosecute the person that is responsible for the crime.

Honest and Open Answers

When being questioned by the police, it is important that everyone involved, including the victim, answer questions as honestly and openly as possible. If the victim knows the offender, they should disclose how they know them, what their relationship has been like in the past and provide any other information that could help the police locate the person.

Also, the victim should tell the police about any evidence that they may have touched, such as a weapon.

Or tell them about evidence that might help the investigation. This could include a list of friends or family members of the offender, a description of their car, where they work, what they were wearing, and any identifiable marks that they have, such as tattoos.

If evidence is found later or information is later remembered after the initial statement is given it can always be added.

This includes personal items that the offender may have stolen that were discovered after the initial police interview.

Searching the Premises

If the crime occurred inside the victim's home, it may be necessary for investigators to do a complete search of the interior and exterior of the home. They may tape areas off, take measurements, look for finger and shoe prints, take castings and look for other trace evidence. This process can take several hours and sometimes days to complete.

If police find enough evidence to show that a specific person committed the crime, they may file criminal charges against that person or refer the case to the prosecutor's office. Depending on the evidence, the police may or may not arrest a suspected offender right away.

The Importance of Police Objectivity

It is important that the investigators remain objective while gathering information about the crime. It allows them to look at various possibilities that the victim may or may not know about. Sometimes it can appear that the investigators doubt the truthfulness of what the victim has told them. A lot of what turns up during a crime scene investigation is kept private even from the victim. The secret evidence can help investigators rule out people who make false confessions.

Certain evidence can also be used when questioning a suspect.

Slow Investigations

Sometimes a crime is solved and the perpetrator is locked up in jail within 24 hours. Unfortunately solving most crimes takes a lot longer. Not only do the investigators have to catch the criminal, but they also have to ensure that the evidence collected will hold up in court.

Sometimes the case may go cold, but remain opened and may not get solved for several months and sometimes years.

It is a normal reaction for victims to grow impatient with the process and feel that no one cares about what has happened to them. They may even feel that the police have stopped working on their case. The time between reporting a crime and seeing the person responsible get arrested can be very difficult for crime victims. Victim support groups can help a victim of crime get through this period of time.

Most investigators will not call to update the victim of a crime unless there is something new to report, but the victim should feel comfortable to call the investigators on a regular basis to check on the status of the investigation.

When Victims Change Their Mind

There are times when a victim may change their mind and decide that they do not want the person responsible for the crime to be arrested or prosecuted. This often happens in cases involving domestic violence or when a child has been abused. A victim may decide to stop cooperating with the investigation. However, once a crime is reported to the authorities, the case can still be prosecuted with or without the consent of the victim. If it involves a serious crime the prosecutor may decide to move forward without the victim.